spring break update

Spring Break always seems to arrive a little too late and fly by far too fast, leaving not much semester and a lot of work still to do.

My foremost project continues to be a thesis paper on the use of narrative in Deuteronomy. I've started writing it even though I'm not yet sure all the paths my arguments my travel down, because I've realized that I'm not the kind to perfectly outline my thoughts and then put them into prose. Somehow the paper writing process is the thing that frees me to think in new ways, in directions that I couldn't if I was still just reading and doing research. So the paper has begun.

The outline goes something like this so far:

Thesis: Our believing (i.e. acting, knowing) is shaped by our belonging (cf. Polanyi, PK)

A. Our Belonging = our worldview/tradition/fundamental assumptions imparted to us by our culture

B. Worldviews are narrative in structure/authoritative narratives shape our view of the world (cf. Wright, many others)

C. In Deut., Moses shapes the belonging and worldview of the people at least in part by use of the story of the Exodus. (this, as far as I can tell, is my original contribution)

1. By authoritatively telling it--i.e. give the authoritative version of the Exodus in summary statements
2. By setting the story of the Exodus as an authority:

A. to compel their ethical action
B. to compel their graditude
C. to shape their identity

3. By setting up ritual recitation and enactment of the story (Deut 6 & 26)

D. Conclusions for the church's use of its own narrative of deliverance?


the quest for certainty

"After three centuries of a quest for, if not an assurance of, certainty we must contritely confess that we in the Western world have lived by nothing more substantial than hope, recognizing nevertheless that hope has always been rewarded by unexpected knowledge and that speech, made bold by hope, has always disclosed to us more than we could explicitly anticipate and than we can ever fully say."

--William Poteat reflecting on the epistemology of Michael Polanyi

Our knowledge of all things has always been uncertain--it has always been founded on hope. But hope does not put us to shame. Our words are fumblings towards a reality we can hardly conceive of or imagine, much less speak of with absolute authority. But hope does not put us to shame.


From the Sunday Times

How Wikipedia might need to evolve in order to be a really useful resource.

Use statistical analysis to pick your NCAA bracket.

An early look at the field for the 2008 GOP nomination.

Another book on Jesus. (This one looks interesting, though).


Missing KMOX

It's a well-known fact that people who have a hand or limb amputated often take a long time to adjust to the missing appendage--habitually using their bodies in ways that made sense when they were whole. Right now that's how I feel about a radio station.

For the past week I've been occasionally tuning my car's radio dial to 1120 AM, hoping to catch Mike Shannon in the middle of Cardinals' spring training game on KMOX. I know that these games aren't important, but I can't help but want to hear Mike's voice--more than anything, it's a sign of the season changing, the fact that spring is on its way, and though the games are meaningless, it's fun to hear the names of the unlikely players, the young and the old who might make the team based on a high batting average in March.

Although I hadn't been able to find Mike yet this spring, I didn't think much of it, just figured that I hadn't caught the games at the right time of day. But then, driving along the highway the other day I caught a billboard out of the corner of my eye that was probably put up precisely for Cardinals fans like me who turn to KMOX out of pure habit as they get in the car on warm nights. The billboard, of course, was an announcement/reminder of the radio station switch that the Cardinals had made over the winter. After 50 years or so of games broadcast on KMOX, the Cards are moving over to another network--a radio station bought by the team so that they can exclusively control the profits. On the face of it, this doesn't sound like a big deal--it's just a few digits down on the dial, just a couple twists of the fingers. But a summer without KMOX in St. Louis feels foreign to me, uncharted territory I have no desire to explore. I'm sure that my body will adjust, that sometime soon I'll scan the dial to 550 instead of 1120 without thinking twice about the action, but for the moment it just feels like I'm missing something important and don't know where it went.


Kolmarden Zoo

Two stanzas from Kolmården Zoo, by Bill Coyle, a suprisingly powerful poem on the subject of death. From the March 2006 issue of Poetry.

Still, to teach children this is how things go
is one thing, to insist that it is good
is something else—it is to make a god
of an unsatisfactory status quo,

this vicious circle that the clock hands draw
and quarter, while the serpent bites its tail,
or eats the dust, or strikes at someone’s heel,
or winds up comprehended by a claw.


the gospel

Growing up in a solidly evangelical Christian home, I always heard that the "gospel" that was talked about in the New Testament was something like "the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sins." One of the largest shifts in my thinking since coming to seminary has been to realize that while my childhood definition might be the way that the "gospel" is defined in American evangelicalism, and is an essential part of the biblical definition, the way the New Testament talks about the gospel is actually more comprehensive than that.

There are a lot of perspectives out there on the New Perspective on Paul. I'm not sure what to think about the "movement" myself, and certainly don't have enough knowledge or training to come to any kind of definitive idea about it. I imagine that like most new biblical/theological ideas there are probably both positives and negatives, insights to learn from and theories to avoid. All that said, I have learned a great deal from many of the emphases of N. T. Wright, both from reading his book "Jesus and the Victory of God" for a class at Covenant, as well as from various articles that he's written.

As I've thought through these issues regarding the gospel and how its definition might be different from the idea I grew up with, one of the best essays I've read on the subject has been Wright's Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire. Wright's thesis is essentially that Paul's gospel is "the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is Israel's Messiah and the world's Lord" and that this gospel stands in direct opposition to Caesar's empire. While at first glance, this gospel might sound pretty similiar to my earlier definition, there are actually some pretty significant differences, as well as many different implications.

One major implication of Wright's redefinition of the gospel (and of course, it's not just Wright that is saying this) is that it moves the focus from the individual sinner being saved to the entire world being redeemed--an idea that impacts my life in many ways.

To take one small example, this refocusing breaks down the secular/sacred divide that plagues the lives of many Christians. If Jesus is "simply" the one who saves me from my sins, then it becomes debatable, in practice if not in theory, how much impact his salvation ought to have on the daily actions of my life. Obviously I ought to live a life of thankfulness, a life that is centered around acknowledging my dependence upon and need for him. But in practice, it's easy to see Jesus as the one who pays for my sins and opens the doors of heaven to me and yet does not have much to say about how I live. If the his law impacts my life at all, it's often in a moralistic way that merely serves to differintiate me from the surrounding world. Of course, I make this critique not as a outsider imagining the way evangelicals behave, but as one who lived this way for a long time. I should also add that I am not ashamed in the least of the way in which I grew but believing in Jesus. I both knew and loved him. I'm sure that I knew no less about theology then than I do now.

But if the "gospel" is the summons and announcement that the resurrected Jesus is the king of the world and lord of all things, then this sacred/secular divide totally breaks down. Jesus is lord of the world in precisely the same way that he is lord of my heart. My salvation is not just being cleansed from my sins, but it is demonstrated in my being part of a world that is being restored and transformed, a membership in the new humanity of the king who is ruling all things with wisdom and power. Obviously Jesus atoning on the cross for my sins is a part of this gospel, even an essential part, but it is never its comprehensive definition.

Ideas do matter, and the way that we define the gospel of Jesus Christ will inevitably impact the way we live as those who are baptized in his name. And this, I am becoming more and more convinced, is the heart of the gospel, that is, the good news that Christians are to announce to the world--that the risen Jesus is both Lord and Christ. In short, that Jesus is king, and the whole earth belongs to him.


New bands

If you're a fan of iTunes and you like indie music, you might want check out emusic. Basically, it's just like iTunes except that the songs are only about 25 cents apiece instead of a dollar, and they mainly carry indie bands. If you send me an email or leave a comment, I can send you an invite and you'll get a 50 free downloads trial offer (with no strings attached) instead of the 25 free downloads that are advertised on the site.

A couple of the new bands I've gotten into:

My Morning Jacket - if you're a fan of current music and don't listen to the radio for everything, I'm sure you've heard of these guys. Z is one of the best albums I've heard in a while. I downloaded Tennessee Fire from emusic, and have really enjoyed that as well.

Modern Skirts - I heard about this band through the Paste Music podcast. Great energy and songwriting. Give the song "Pasadena" a listen and you'll be hooked.

Jose Gonzalez - Don't let the name fool you--he's a Swede. A Swede who sings beautiful acoustic folk songs in English.


Never Let Me Go

oldSpeak, the online journal of The Rutherford Institute has again been kind enough to publish another of my review essays. The topic of this essay is Never Let Me Go, the new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro that explores questions regarding the ethics of human cloning. I highly recommend the book because it is first of all a very fine story and only within that context an ethical statement. You can read the review here.

My past essays for oldSpeak can be found here.


Acts, fantasy baseball, asking too many questions

Not much posting this week, due to a couple projects for school and a fantasy baseball draft. One of the school projects was one of the hardest tests I've ever taken-a midterm on the book of Acts adminstered by Hans Bayer, Covenant's resident German professor (Now, granted, I was a poetry writing guy in college and never had organic chemistry or anything like that).

Over the last year, I've discovered that I just hate studying for tests and so have a hard time preparing for them, even when I have time blocked out beforehand. It just seems really tedious to try to guess what questions the professor is going to ask, then cram all that information in my brain so I can spit it out and then forget 90% of it over the next couple of weeks. I know this is the way that education is done for most people, but two years into a graduate degree, it's beginning to become very tiresome. Luckily, Bayer allows us to write an exegetical paper instead of taking the final for this class (Acts and Paul) and so I'm definitely going to go that route-I find the paper writing process far more helpful and interesting.

The fantasy draft was overseen by George, a good seminary friend who let me get in a long-standing keeper league that he runs. I'm excited about my team, it's led by Alex Rodriguez and Travis Hafner and includes future Cy Young winner Anthony Reyes.

The other school project this week was for Intro to Counseling. Basically we were required to interview three friends for an hour each about their life histories. The main thing I learned through this process was that I have a hard time with silence in a conversation. Instead of allowing the person talking to fill the silence on their own, I tend to quickly fill it with a question. Good to know.

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates
eXTReMe Tracker Get Firefox!